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Your Environment. Your Health.

Use of a Community-University Partnership to Eliminate Environmental Stressors

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

Academic Partner:

University of South Carolina
Sacoby Wilson, Ph.D.

Community Partner:

Low-Country Alliance for Model Communities

community members at mapping training

Community members participate in hands-on mapping training for the public participatory GIS online data visualization tool.
(Photo courtesy of Sacoby Wilson)

Project Description

A community-university partnership between the Low-Country Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) and the University of South Carolina collaborated to address environmental injustice, public health, and revitalization issues in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Poor Black neighborhoods in North Charleston are overburdened by environmental hazards, industrial pollution sources, and noxious land uses including contamination from a local incinerator, Superfund sites, busy road networks, chemical plants, and port expansion-related activities.

The project studied the cumulative impacts of pollution on the environment and health of exposed populations in the Charleston area. Community-based participatory research and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s collaborative problem solving model were used to educate residents about local pollution sources, collect information on community exposure to particulate matter and heavy metals emitted from these local sources, build community confidence in scientific research, and “inpower” residents to obtain environmental justice and drive changes in local environmental health policy. Rather than trying to bring stakeholders power, the collaborative research team coined the word “inpowerment” to denote the process of connecting residents to the power that they already have and making that power more active.

Study results will have important implications for pollution prevention, risk reduction activities and strategies, and environmental health policy for economically disadvantaged and overburdened communities in the Charleston area.

The project partners:

  • Assessed the geographic distribution of pollution sources in North Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Quantified levels of particulate matter and heavy metals near industrial and non-point sources of pollution in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in North Charleston.
  • Worked to increase community capacity to reduce exposure, prevent pollution, and improve public health through community-based outreach, education, and training.
  • Studied the cumulative effects of pollution on the health of people in North Charleston.
  • Established the Charleston Community Research to Action Board.
  • Shut down an incinerator site located in an LAMC neighborhood.
  • Developed the EJRADAR, a public participatory GIS online data visualization tool.
  • Used data from the project to inform zoning and community development decisions.

Selected Publications:

  • Wilson S, Burwell-Naney K, Jiang C, Zhang H, Samantapudi A, Murray R, Dalemarre L, Rice L, Williams E. 2015. Assessment of sociodemographic and geographic disparities in cancer risk from air toxics in South Carolina. Environ Res 140:562-568. [Abstract]
  • Rice LJ, Jiang C, Wilson SM, Burwell-Naney K, Samantapudi A, Zhang H. 2014. Use of segregation indices, Townsend Index, and air toxics data to assess lifetime cancer risk disparities in metropolitan Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Int J Environ Res Public Health 11(5):5510-5526. [Abstract]
  • Svendsen ER, Reynolds S, Ogunsakin OA, Williams EM, Fraser-Rahim H, Zhang H, Wilson SM. 2014. Assessment of particulate matter levels in vulnerable communities in North Charleston, South Carolina prior to port expansion. Environ Health Insights 8:5-14. [Abstract]
  • Wilson SM, Fraser-Rahim H, Williams E, Zhang H, Rice L, Svendsen E, Abara W. 2012. Assessment of the distribution of toxic release inventory facilities in metropolitan Charleston: an environmental justice case study. Am J Public Health 102(10):1974-1980. [Abstract]
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